Caring for a Three Legged Dog or Cat
Tripawds is the place to learn how to care for a three legged dog or cat, with answers about dog leg amputation, and cat amputation recovery from many years of member experiences.
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6 June 2017
I have been somewhat casually looking for a best friend, and have been browsing adoptable dogs in my area for a while now. I came across the cutest face, and TALLEST EARS, on this 1 year old Border Collie mix Jake. As soon as I went to the shelter to meet sweet Jake, the woman at the front desk asked how much I knew about him. Of course, I only knew what their ad said so she continued to tell me that he has lameness in his front left leg that most likely requires amputation. They have been controlling his pain with numerous medications, and because he’s so young and otherwise healthy, he’s been just fine. They said his surgery hasn’t been a top priority because his pain management has been going so well.
Meeting him, I knew right away that I could love this dog forever.. longer if allowed.. but I want to make sure I can provide him everything he could ever need to thrive and be happy. He can put weight on the foot, but clearly doesn’t prefer to. I also wonder if the only reason he puts any weight on it at all, might be because the amount of pain meds he’s on which is masking the discomfort. Regardless, the shelter recognized our bond, and my intentions, so they have placed him on a complimentary hold while I do my research. I have copies of his medical charts, RX lists, and his radiographs – which I have given to a couple Vets seeking their opinions.
I would love to hear from someone who has a 3 legged buddy, what advice you might have for me. I currently live alone, in an apartment (on the 4th floor, but with elevator access), in a building that has quite a few other dogs. Any insight, advice, information, or resources you can provide would be greatly appreciated.
Hi and welcome! Thanks for registering as a member, your future posts (and we hope there will be after you adopt your pup! 😉 won’t need approval. If you do adopt him, keep in mind that the Tripawds Foundation may cover up to $100 of the adoption fee!
I love the thought you are putting into finding a new companion, and that you’ve sent out his medical history to vets. Are any of them orthopedic surgeons? If not, I would consider asking one for their opinion as well. This pup could very well have a correctable condition that doesn’t need amputation. That would be ideal! If they concur that he does need the limb removed, a prosthesis is another possible option if they can leave a long enough stump to attach a device. But we can talk about that later. For now, here’s what you need to know about adoption a younger Tripawd:
First, check out Jerry’s Required Reading List . We have lots of tips about life on three legs and our articles there can give you an idea of the requirements of a three-legged animal. What you should know before adopting him is:
As a Tripawd ages, they become more susceptible to joint stress, aches and pains. Your job is to keep on top of this so they can enjoy a good quality of life even with the challenges presented by their compromised gait. As pet parents to Tripawds, we must be conscientious about the dog or cat’s activity level. While these animals can do practically anything a four-legger can do, that doesn’t mean they should.
Exercise duration and intensity should be closely monitored and regulated — even if the dog appears to be perfectly capable of keeping up with the pack. As a Border Collie mix, you’ll have challenges holding him back, but it’s for his benefit. Shorter, more frequent exercise is preferred over longer sessions. This means that long hikes lasting more than 20 or 30 minutes at most (for a dog in top shape) aren’t ideal for most dogs. You can still have fun together, but modified, like by taking a dog stroller on the walk with you.
The great thing about having a Tripawd in our lives is it requires us to think of all sorts of different ways to have fun together. Instead of playing fetch for an hour (explosive activities are detrimental) you can have fun with gentle activities like trick training, obedience lessons, interactive puzzles, nosework training and more activities that work the mind harder than the body.
One of the most enlightening discussions we’ve had with a vet about this subject is available in our Tripawd Talk Radio podcast. Here’s a link, I encourage you to listen to the 30 minute convo:
Let us know if you adopt this sweetie!
15 December 2015
Hi there, and welcome! It’s so great that you have established a bond with this dog and that you are researching his situation so thoroughly. Just a couple of things that occur to me straight off: when you say that you have given his X-rays etc. to a coupe of vets, is one of those a board certified orthopaedic specialist? If not, then I would certainly recommend consulting one. There will be a charge for this, but I think it would be a very good idea at this stage at all possible. Why do they say that his lameness requires amputation? Have other options been explored? If he does need to lose the leg, is a prosthesis a possibility (depending on how far up it needs amputating)? These are questions I would want to have answered.
If Jake does require amputation, then as I and many, many others on this site will tell you, it is perfectly possible to lead an excellent quality of life on three legs. I have known many border collies, primarily working as sheepdogs in Wales, and they are wonderful and highly rewarding dogs but they are also highly active, both mentally and physically. It will be absolutely crucial to provide Jake with adequate mental stimulation, whether he loses the leg or not. I mean things such as possibly taking him to classes, playing mental activation games, perhaps doing some nosework, that sort of thing. (Based on my own experience of the breed – and others may disagree with this – I do not think most border collies would cope well with being left home alone all day) Is your lifestyle such that you will be able to provide this? If so, then he sounds a terrific match and your dedication to him is clear. Do please let us know when you hear from the vets. Jake does sound pretty adorable and I really hope that this will work out for you.
All very best wishes,
Meg, Clare and Elsie Pie xxx
Meg, Mutt, aged around 10, adopted 31/12/2009. Sudden explosive right elbow fracture 06/12 (caused by IOHC), diagnosed with End Stage Arthritis 03/15, Total Elbow Replacement 08/15, problems with healing leading to skin graft & skin flap surgery, Chronic Infection leading to implant breakdown. Became a Tripawd 9th March 2016. Lives with Mum, Clare, watched over by Angel Pie and Angel Billie My life as a MEG-A-STAR
2 December 2016
Ditto everyone! One thing to consider would be matching the activity level with lifestyle. If border collie mix, many folks go jogging or running to drain off the energy if the pup is not on a farm working. And there are also many, many other activities you can do to replace the running/jogging should amputation be needed. I would really explore if amputation is needed through advice/exams from specialists if possible. Not because amputation does not do wonders if a dog is in pain, etc., but because this possible adoptee is so very young and will have to adjust throughout his entire life. ( And, sometimes, the decision can be a ” maybe not now, maybe in the future” conversation.) I originally joined this site as I, too, was presented with an “very likely” amp situation but here it is 8 months later- and many specialist/tests later- and my guy still gets to keep his leg and is-finally- well adjusted on his pain meds. But, guess what? TriPawds Nation is the MOST exceptional group and have welcomed us and let us stay on regardless of our QuadPaw status:) Bottom line: if pain meds are working, take time deciding on the path forward:) And congrats on opening your heart and home!!!